As befitting the holiest day of our calendar, which has the longest services, we’ve got a full plate of Torah and haftarah readings (maybe “plate” isn’t the right word for a fast day). The morning Torah readings highlight ritual, namely, the High Priest’s dramatic duties on Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:1-34) and the prescribed sacrifices. The haftarah, Isaiah 57:14 – 58:14, declares that ritual is not the be-all-and-end-all but must spur us to action, like feeding the hungry (58:7); inspired by the text, a local synagogue has named its Food Bank drive this week “Operation Isaiah.” The afternoon Torah reading, Leviticus 18:1-30, lists forbidden sexual relationships, since engagements were often announced on Yom Kippur in ancient Israel as the people rejoiced after the High Priest was finished. Finally, the haftarah is the book of Jonah (followed by Micah, 7:18 – 7:20 ), which becomes more interesting to me as the years go by. My friend Stanley has pointed out all sorts of interesting features that lead him to think the book is a satire written by a proto-neoconservative and there’s an essay by R. Meir Soloveichik you may find of interest at
http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2010/9/15/main-feature/1/jonah-and-yom-kippur . The humor in Jonah (slapstick, parody, wordplay, the Lord as David Letterman) is also discussed by Dr. Steven C. Walker at http://www.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/MajorForums/2003_07_17_Walker.htm .
I have been thinking about Santa Claus this week.
I have been trying to focus on behaving appropriately, which usually amounts to keeping my mouth shut or typing fingers still (by the way, if I recall correctly, in his d’var Torah at our shul last Shabbat, Gerald August noted that 14 of the 44 sins in the Al Chet confessional are related to speech). It struck me that this seemed akin to a child’s trying to behave before Christmas in order to be in the “nice” column of Santa’s naughty and nice list so as to get all the desired gifts. [Actually, a colleague told me that Lent would be a much better parallel to this period of introspection, but Santa popped into my head.] Certainly, U’netaneh Tokef, which we read on Rosh Hashanah (the one with who shall live, who shall die, etc.) reinforces this admittedly strange parallel, with living a peaceful, prosperous life standing in for Christmas gifts.But I’ve never cottoned to the idea of viewing the Lord as someone to send a specific gift list, or even barter with (if You do this, I promise to do that). We confess our sins over and over, collectively and individually. We promise to make amends and “be good” in the coming months. We are told that repentance (teshuvah), prayer (tefilah), and righteousness (tzedakah) will “avert the evil decree.” But journalist Jane Eisner recently wrote, with regard to U’netaneh Tokef, “I loosely translated that last phrase as averting “the evil decree”, as if God was simply a mean-spirited bureaucrat, issuing edicts that may, or may not, make sense. But the Hebrew is more subtle — ma-avirin et ro-a ha-g’zeirah – saying not that our conduct will avert the decree, but instead that it will help us overcome the evil and harshness that accompany it.” And how we deal with what happens in the coming year may end up being more important that what happens.
I wish you all a good year and an easy fast.
Campaign pushing Yom Kippur as device-free day
August 31, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — A new campaign is promoting Yom Kippur as a day to disconnect from technology.[of course, the religiously observant already do. IGP]
Offlining, Inc. is the brainchild of advertising and public relations CEOs Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo, self-professed children of the Silicon Revolution who launched http://www.offlininginc.com just before Father’s Day in June urging dads to put down their mobile devices, turn off the TV and spend time with their families.
Now they are urging all Americans, Jewish or not, to do the same on Sept. 18.
The two friends created an online campaign to support the initiative. One shows Tiger Woods with his hand on his heart and the slogan “You don’t have to be Jewish to atone for your texts on Yom Kippur.”
Yaverbaum and DiMassimo, who say they make their living by using technology, write on their site that putting away the machines sometimes may be the best way to go.
Visitors to the site are encouraged to sign an online pledge to hold 10 “No-Device Dinners” between now and Thanksgiving, and to use the time they would have spent online to notice the people in their lives.
Top Ten Reasons why HIPSTERS Love Yom Kippur
10.Synagogue Outfit of choice: Sneakers (vans,converse,crocs) with a suit
9. Prayerbook is filled with indie band name ideas: The Temple Service? Veedoy?
8. Jews uniting to boycott the exploitation of leather
7. Ability to stick it to the man and wear white after Labor Day
6. Get to dress in layers (Tallis, Kittel, Suit, Tzitzit)
5. No one is eating meat!
4. Bending for Alenu so many times makes for a great yoga class
3. Your hair looks best unwashed and lack of shower maximizes your cowlicks.
2. Most of davening is about self exploration and confession. Can you say emo?
1. Fasting helps you fit into your skinny jeans
High Holiday Services
On Rosh Hashanah morning, the Rabbi noticed little Adam was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the synagogue. It was covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it.
The seven-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the Rabbi walked up, stood beside the boy, and said quietly, “Good morning, Adam.”
“Good morning, Rabbi,” replied the young man, still focused on the plaque. “Rabbi Resnick, what is this?” Adam asked.
“Well, it’s a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.”
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Adam’s voice was barely audible when he asked: “Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur service?”
In the Army of God on the Holidays
A friend was in front of me coming out of the Synagogue one day, and as always the Rabbi was standing at the door shaking hands as the congregation departed. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside. The Rabbi said to him, “You need to join the Army of G-d!”
My friend replied, “I’m already in the Army of G-d, Rabbi.”
Rabbi questioned, “How come I don’t see you except for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?”
He whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”
Food for the Fast
Rabbi to parishioner: “Yes I understand that McDonalds calls it “fast food”…but you STILL can’t eat it on Yom Kippur!”
http://www.jidaily.com/JN0R3 [Passed on by Stanley – thanks!]
Lots of interesting stuff here about the best-attended synagogue ritual of the year.
The Curious Case of Kol Nidrei By Herman Kieval, Commentary.
The best-known ritual of the High Holy Day services has a paradoxical and controversial history. (1968; PDF).
And since football season is now underway…
Yom Kippur vs. The Super Bowl
David Mamet once wrote that the only true religious holidays in America are
the Oscars and the Super Bowl. With that in mind, here is a look at how the
Super Bowl compares with Judasm’s most holy day.
Yom Kippur The Super Bowl
Proceeded by ten days of repentance, Proceeded by two weeks of hype,
during which you learn about the during which you learn about
faults of people around you. the faults of obscure athletes.
Fasting Purifies the soul. Snacking clogs the arteries.
Observant Jews worldwide stand and Football fans worldwide stand and
chant following the cues of their cheer following the cues of John Madden.
Kol Nidre. Pre-Game Show.
Carrying money is forbidden. Billions of dollars gambled.
Everyone wants to know who shall Everyone wants to know who shall be
be inscribed in the Book of Life. inscribed in the NFL Record Book.
Story of Jonah eaten by the whale Story of Tarkenton eaten by the Pittsburgh
retold each Yom Kippur. defense retold each Super Bowl
Millions of Jews attend services Millions of people watch football only
only on this day. on this day.
Five separate services, lasting from Pre-Game show, Game and Post-Game show,
9:30 AM to sunset. lasting from 9:30 AM to 10:00 PM.
Ends with final shofar blast, followed Ends with popping of champagne corks,
by lame benidiction from Rabbi. followed by lame phone call from President.
Overpriced tickets. Overpriced tickets.
Wearing of leather shoes forbidden. Holding of pigskin encouraged.
People who observe it gently People who ignore it gently patronized
patronized by mainstream society as by mainstream society as “out of
“our Jewish Friends”. touch geeks”.
Key prayers repeated over and over. Key plays shown over and over using super
Dropping Torah scroll — 40 days fast. Dropping football – 40 years as Super
Traditional Jews forbid women from Traditional football coaches forbid
being called to the Torah. women from their locker rooms.
Break the fast with a glass of wine. End the game by pouring Gatorade over
Wailing in agony over your misdeeds. Wailing in agony over referee’s miscalls.
Follows New Year. Follows New Year.
Congregants wear tallisim. Players wear shoulder pads.
Jews beat themselves on the chest. Players pat teammates on ass.
This article is Copyright 1992, 1995 by Noel Rappin and Ross Garmil. All
Rights reserved. Do not reprint without this notice attached. Orignally
printed in GRAVITY: The Humor Magazine of Brandeis University, Volume 3
Issue 1, December 1992.